Steam Launches VR Video Section With Alien, LEGO Batman And More

by Ian Hamilton • May 10th, 2017
Steam's 360 Video Player launches in beta today powered by Pixvana's SPIN Studio

Valve Software’s Steam store is the undisputed leader of PC game distribution, though the marketplace is also a portal for buying VR games, software and even traditional movies. Through a partnership with Seattle-based startup Pixvana, Valve is also launching a VR video section aimed at bringing many of the benefits of distributing a 360-degree video on Facebook or Google’s YouTube to PC users consuming content through Steam.

Steam’s 360 Video Player is launching in beta today, integrating Pixvana’s SPIN VR video streaming technology for VR videos. The end result should be a “one-click” solution for watching 360-degree content, using a Rift or Vive headset to check out the video in VR. Soon, they will also add the ability to use a mouse to look around a video on a flat 2D screen.

“Pixvana’s SPIN SDK has been a great asset in our efforts to empower VR content creators and provide an integrated solution for experiencing linear VR content on Steam,” said Valve’s Sean Jenkin in a prepared statement.

The 360 Video Player is built using Pixvana’s software development kit (SDK) for playback and streaming of the content in multiple formats. Pixvana notably developed its own adaptive streaming technology that efficiently delivers video quickly at a high quality. Capturing, editing, and delivering 360-degree videos is a hard problem for filmmakers and content production companies to overcome, and the team-up between Valve and Pixvana aims to give these creators another route beyond Facebook and YouTube for delivering their content at a sweet spot of speed and quality both inside and outside of VR.

“We’re working hard to help all content creators and consumers create immersive experiences that look sharp and feel life-like. We are excited to partner with Valve to bring these solutions to a vast audience so that people everywhere can experience VR’s true potential,” said Pixvana Co-Founder and CEO Forest Key, in a prepared statement.

Some of content available initially includes the Alien: Covenant VR experience, LEGO Batman: The Batmersive Experience, and others.

Here are the features included in the initial launch, according to an FAQ:

Content Creators

  • Ingestion of MP4 H.264, PNG and JPG Sequences, AAC and WAV audio files.
  • Creation of experiences using the Pixvana SPIN Studio.
  • Configuration of the 360 output format including mono, stereo, equirectangular and FOVAS / Frustum (for up to 16K delivery). Stereo FOVAS support coming soon.
  • Export of configured 360 video directly to Steam.
  • Steam store page and delivery of the video to Steam customers.

Consumers

  • Find ground-breaking 360 videos in the Steam store just like any other Steam content.
  • Instant playback of the 360 video in a SteamVR Headset.
  • Tracked Input and Keyboard control of video playback.
  • Integrated Steam playtime tracking and other native Steam features.

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  • Simon Hughes

    Are the videos just 360, or does that include stereoscopic 360 videos too?

    • Me

      It seesm they are sterescopic 360. I couldn’t watch the videos this morning, not enough time, but I just launched one anyway to see if it worked and all I can say is that on the Lego Batman screen there was options to select sterescopic and quality.

      What looks stupid to me is that you cannot download the video in cache. I’ve got a decent connection, 15-20 Mbits, which is enough to watch 4k Netflix, but I could never use properly all these VR streaming videos services.

      Here’s what it looks like on my office machine (not suitable for VR):

      https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/d0438362ed76e30b290c28e0e005fe85f5358f05ebd675debc7d90ca8303bbf3.png

  • Adriano Farina

    Is there any info on what audio formats are supported?

  • I watched The Lion King 3D inside Bigscreen on Rift the other day (in the Grand Theater room) and it was utterly stunning. It was basically like watching a 3D movie at the cinema but from the comfort of my own home, and without anyone eating snacks or talking through the movie. I’d highly recommend giving it a go.

    PS. The Lion King 3D in particular, of all the 3D movies I’ve watched, is utterly gorgeous in 3D; something about the really clean, 2D, hand-pained animation just really works brilliantly with/in 3D. I now want Disney to convert basically all of its classic 2D features films to 3D.

  • OK, someone has to say it: Now, either I’m using this Steam 360 VR movie stuff totally wrong or it is a load of total and utter f’n garbage. First, it was a hassle just to get it set up; it wasn’t really clear at all how to do it without a load of faffing around, and even then it felt extremely clunky to actually use (at least on my Oculus Rift). And–and this bit I can’t stress enough–the resolution and overall experience is utterly f’n terrible; it’s so pixelated and compressed that I simply cannot see how anyone can seriously enjoy this kind of thing. Seriously, this right here is exactly the kind of thing that is in danger of destroying the current VR revolution before it’s had a chance to properly get going. I just hope for the love of f’n Christ that this isn’t the first thing anyone experiences in VR and actually thinks modern VR is anywhere near this bad. This kind of extremely low quality gimmicky junk is quite possibly the worst crap you’ll experience in modern VR–my advice is stay away from it.